The unluckiest generation
April 1, 2024 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Here’s why Americans under 40 are so disillusioned with capitalism Millennials have had such a tumultuous start in the workforce, they have been nicknamed the “unluckiest generation.” They are struggling to navigate the most unaffordable housing market since the early 1980s. And that’s before anyone talks about the larger challenges of climate change, wars and political partisanship and paralysis.

My suggestion was simple: Treat workers better. This wasn’t the answer they wanted. Many rushed to tell me how generous their pay raises have been, how easy it is to go from an entry-level job to management at their company, and how they have diversified their workforce. These are all welcome efforts, but they miss the bigger picture. Young people in America have come of age during the Great Recession, the sluggish recovery that followed and then the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment has been 10 percent or higher twice in the past 15 years. Young workers have seen how expendable they are to companies and how quickly financial security can evaporate.
posted by Toddles (92 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Let's not use the passive voice when we're talking about this, this isn't "unlucky". This is the system working fundamentally as envisioned and intended by the GOP and the corporate executive class since Reagan.
posted by mhoye at 6:35 PM on April 1 [121 favorites]


Fink was refreshingly blunt that it’s not hard to figure out why millennials and Gen Z workers are economically anxious. “They believe my generation — the Baby Boomers — have focused on their own financial well-being to the detriment of who comes next. And in the case of retirement, they’re right,” he said.

While Fink correctly identified a key problem, his proposed solution wasn’t to bring back pension plans. It was a new BlackRock product that helps people better manage their retirement spending. In other words, it’s a way for BlackRock to likely make more money.
In other words: "I have pulled the ladder up, and I will be sure the ladder remains up."

Perhaps this, among a great many other things, is why not only those under 40 but plenty of those above it are disenchanted by an economic system designed to not only incentivize this behavior but clothe it plausibly as somehow "helpful."
posted by majick at 6:40 PM on April 1 [39 favorites]


"What could they do to restore trust in our economic system?"

Nothing. Even when people say the right things, they're only doing it to find a new way to squeeze money from people with less power. Even in the article, the one person who says the right things also says we need to raise the retirement age and use his product to force seniors to cut back (sorry "better manage their retirement spending") while he makes another billion.
posted by Garm at 6:40 PM on April 1 [56 favorites]


Let's not use the passive voice when we're talking about this, this isn't "unlucky". This is the system working fundamentally as envisioned and intended by the GOP and the corporate executive class since Reagan.
mhoye, while I'm sensitive to the idea that it's too easy to shrug and say “gee, what tough breaks” as a way of evading responsibility, I don't think that calling someone unlucky inherently implies that the source of their unluck is random chance. I, an elder millennial, am deeply lucky, because my background allows me certain privileges and (modest but real) generational savings; it's not undirected chance that brought me here, but it is lucky for me that I'm here. Similarly, the fact that the woes of the less-elder millennials were caused by deliberate intent doesn't make them any less unlucky to be the victim of the Reagan-era decisions bearing their inevitably poisonous fruit.
posted by It is regrettable that at 6:50 PM on April 1 [8 favorites]


Previously on the Blue: FML: Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression by now Very Famous Podcaster, Michael Hobbes.

Besides 9/11, the financial/housing crisis, some forever war in Afghanistan that went nowhere, the plague - (not to repeat the greatest hits - you've all been there) I lost my parents in 2001 and one of my siblings took whatever marginal inheritance was left from a self-employed social worker and an alcoholic homemaker who were my parents (and from their parents), leaving me with almost nothing that you could see as inherited wealth.

I've only now realized how utterly fucked I am to have some sort of future that is at or near the level of my parents. It's laughable. I (have to) work second jobs that pay less than my main job when I was 18 I worked while I was putting myself through school, because my main job evaporated and I feel as if I'm unemployable for the very technical skills I still posses. I'm so through trying reinvent myself over and over again as I endure stints working in giant warehouses folding cardboard boxes.

There's no support system, no 12 step group, no handout program that's going to catch me. I will never retire. Some disease is going to take me, or I'm going to get hit by a car, and that's it. I was so embarrassed going to a food bank but then realized I should have been going to these things most if not all of my life.

I can't even start to think of AI.
posted by alex_skazat at 6:54 PM on April 1 [58 favorites]


“It’s a shame that Fink didn’t use his bullhorn to call on business and political leaders to shore up Social Security.”

To type this sentence and publish it was delusional on the part of at least two people. How even?
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:56 PM on April 1 [11 favorites]


Here's why people are disillusioned with capitalism: because capitalism wants to eat you and eat your children so it can endlessly keep shitting out money for people like Elon Musk.

>And that’s before anyone talks about the larger challenges of climate change, wars and political partisanship and paralysis.

Also, just incidentally, the problem with the political situation in the US is not "partisanship" or "divisiveness", and as soon as I see that kind of both-sidesey bullshit framing I know it's time to move on.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:41 PM on April 1 [70 favorites]


Am 41, have been disillusioned with capitalism since about 1998 when I got my first job. The turn of the century was a very difficult time, psychologically, I think, to be a struggling working class or poor person as there simply was no language or culture to describe or explain what we were experiencing. None that escaped the black hole of mass media, anyway. The kids nowadays at least have each other and TikTok and they seem to have a hell of a lot less shame than I know I did growing up through my mid to late 20 (which happened to coincide with Occupy).

Also don’t read the comments in that article unless you want to hate WaPo boomers more than I already do.
posted by flamk at 7:58 PM on April 1 [18 favorites]


While I'm a socialist myself, it's arguable that with the right restraints, things can be livable under capitalism. Take the top tax rate up to 90% like under Eisenhower, bring the estate tax rate back to 77% as it was in the 40s-60s, fund universal health care like every other first world nation, and kick in Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax.

You'd probably also have to publically finance elections so the rich don't steal it all back again, but it would be a start.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:06 PM on April 1 [79 favorites]


Socialism is the only force that can save capitalism from itself.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:11 PM on April 1 [4 favorites]


For the last 40-plus years, business and government has pushed a tax cut frenzy that was covered up by massive deficit spending. Most people had in good in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. You could do OK on a middle class wage. The tax cuts, the safety net cuts, those didn’t affect most of the working class. People had new cars, plenty of toys, and healthy stock returns. It was paid for by defunding education, public services, and pensions, while normalizing high amounts of personal debt. Student debt went through the roof but kids were told that it was an investment in their future, that they would make it up and make mutiples more. But now the people who have benefited from the tax cuts and financial markets have decided not to even bother dressing it up anymore. They’ve told the younger generation that they just better pay off that student debt (never mind they’ve been fucking paying for years and years and can’t catch up.) You need to pay massive costs for health insurance even though every other industrialized nation on earth has figured this problem out. You’ll own nothing and you’ll like it. You’ll work full time and not be able to afford rent. The things your parents’ generation had that made life good? Nope. Not yours. Oh and don’t forget to save for retirement, and if you don’t have enough to save, that’s your problem, we’re also going to cut Social Security and Medicare BTW. But guys like Musk and Bezos and the Waltons and more are accumulating 12 digit fortunes.


My oh my, I just can’t figure out why millenials are disillusioned with capitalism.
posted by azpenguin at 8:36 PM on April 1 [47 favorites]


Shit man, I'm 49 and I wouldn't say I'm disillusioned with capitalism so much as I'm anti-capitalist and think that it needs to be torn down so we can start fresh with something less inherently awful.

Why are people, not just young, dissatisfied with capitalism? Because capitalism has promised endless wealth and success and has delivered poverty and failure. It is a lie. The supposed efficiency of markets just means rich people steal all the economic growth.

We just recently witnessed the entire housing industry realize that we had a tiny smidge more money than we used to and decide just to take it from us because they can and because we're never allowed to win.

We see this cycle over and over:

Step 1 - The rich and powerful are aware that they must share enough of the wealth to keep the citizenry fed and happy.

Step 2 - A couple of generations later the rich and powerful get more greedy and decide that letting us keep enough wealth to be fed and happy is a bad thing and they want ALL the money.

Step 3 - Life gets really shitty.

Step 4 - There is a bloody revolution and many of the rich and powerful get shorter by around 11 inches.

Loop back to Step 1, repeat endlessly.

Not that the workers were every really allowed to win, but it's gotten worse. George Carlin said it was called the American dream because you had to be asleep to remember it decades ago. And it's gotten worse every year since then.

It's not the pandemic, except that during the pandemic a lot of workers realized how much of a terrible deal they'd gotten when suddenly, like magic, there was money to do things we'd been told were totally impossible pre-pandemic. I think it woke up a lot of people and made them realize that the bad situation isn't inevitable but rather they were being deliberately abused.

Maybe we can manage it with reform this cycle instead of bloody revolution. I'd like to hope so, since bloody revolution never ends well for anyone. But I know which way to bet it. Rich people are STUPID, look at Elon Musk, and they are convinced they can keep on taking all the money forever and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Such people don't learn.
posted by sotonohito at 8:39 PM on April 1 [36 favorites]


Americans under 40?

Try being in your, say, late 50s and slamming hard into the late-life combo breaker of chronic disease, lack of social support systems and lack of institutional support systems that is life as a sick Gen X person in the US these days.

The article, of course, doesn't even mention us, but we do exist. And if you want to see what the future of the milennials and Gen Z and so on look like, take a look at the poor portion of Gen X, then multiply that by the increased burden of disease and financial instability that the later generations bear. (If you need to find poor and sick Gen X people, check your nearest homeless encampment.)

Seriously, between the lack of health care, the lack of housing, the lack of disability support, and the lack of compassion in general, things are looking bleak out here. There's not much room left for anyone in American life if you're not producing value for billionaires at a breakneck pace. If you can't keep up, you're screwed.

The thing is, they seem to need less and less of us working as time goes on and they figure out how to stripmine us more efficiently. And it's becoming more and more clear that those of us who aren't able to be taken advantage of are expected to wander off to the US equivalent of ice floes and secluded forests, the fringes of society, to be scrapped for whatever value we have left and die.

What happened to the poor boomers is happening to most of Gen X now. Watch what happens to the poor Gen Xers, and you'll get an idea of your generations' future. Or, you know, watch the prophecies according to Max Headroom, those will work too.
posted by MrVisible at 8:39 PM on April 1 [40 favorites]


have decided not to even bother dressing it up anymore.

Well of course — all that dressing up costs time and money, and it’s not like anyone is gonna do anything about it. Quicker and easier to skip the window-dressing, get the same outcome and plow the extra time into some really nice political grifts.

Yeah, sure, you might get roasted on social media, but none of that actually matters. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.
posted by aramaic at 8:44 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]


Our capitalism right now is like one of those videos of a minivan driving down the freeway having lost one wheel, leaving a trail of sparks as the wheel hub scrapes along the pavement. On one hand, we're still moving, and that's something, but nobody paying attention could conclude this is going to end well.

The only way this ends is catastrophe. Because of the capitalists. They'd rather build apocalypse bunkers and outfit their domestic staff with shock collars than step out of the way and let others try to right the ship. I've started thinking of them as hostis humani generis, enemies of mankind.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:02 PM on April 1 [11 favorites]


Am 50, Technically work in tech. Been out of work since august. Pulled some short term contracts here and there to stay afloat. May have to go back into the service industry. Have kids. Have zero retirement., Will work till the day I die. I hope I won't drag them down.
posted by garbhoch at 9:12 PM on April 1 [14 favorites]


Well of course — all that dressing up costs time and money, and it’s not like anyone is gonna do anything about it. Quicker and easier to skip the window-dressing, get the same outcome and plow the extra time into some really nice political grifts.

Right, but that little bit of dressing up is what got people to go with the system for so long. They told people there was hope for a good life, if you go to school and work hard and do everything right, you’ll share in the bounty. Now? They’re not even bothering with that. It’s why they’re turning to fascism, because a lot of the youth are waking up to their bullshit and if they’re allowed to vote in free and fair elections, they will kick their legislative enablers out, and we can’t have that now can we?
posted by azpenguin at 9:13 PM on April 1 [7 favorites]


climate change, wars

thank god the floods know not to drown you and the bombs know not to fall on you if you’re 47 instead of 37
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:13 PM on April 1 [12 favorites]


Maybe we could get a few more 50ish people to comment about how things are going for them in this thread? Would really fill out the discussion, paint a fuller picture of the situation. Haven't really heard a perspective from this viewpoint before.
posted by yeahwhatever at 9:22 PM on April 1 [32 favorites]


Am 43 soon. So not exactly 50ish, but it has been a long life. And a lot of this is due to the double whammy of undiagnosed/untreated autism and intense grief of losing my girlfriend/nearly spouse. Plus catastrophic burnout. MrVisible has it exactly. We get lucky with an inheritance or die homeless in a ditch. I wish I could say that was sarcasm, but it's really not. I'm living in my car, and consider myself fairly lucky.

There are jobs, but most of them don't pay more than 15-20$ an hour. Which to me is a lot of money, but it's get a roommate or three for an apartment and live indoors for a while. Everyone I know is in sliding scale therapy, or lucky enough to have a job with good insurance. A lot of us are dodging health issues and praying it's not going to turn life ruining. The waiting list for adult autism services in Houston is years long. I got the impression they might have actually meant decades. Social services are very much hit or miss, not listed well, or have such punitive requirements they might as well just say NO on the website.

I'm fairly optimistic in general, but the system is being hammered on by the right, and it's going to break sooner or later. The laws are going to continue to get more and more repressive. Igenuinely have no idea how people afford homes or children. A lot of times a college education is the ticket for entry, like a high school diploma used to be. I'm expecting a wave of increasing homelessness, and corresponding laws targeting the most vulnerable.

I'm kinda scared about the next generations, especially if they keep gutting schools and services. Middle class might be the people who can read and have enough to eat, sooner or later. And it all stems from the rising tide of fascism.
posted by Jacen at 9:49 PM on April 1 [13 favorites]


As an early Gen Xer it felt like the system was collapsing behind me…

After Gov Reagan instituted tuition for the UC system it was rather token, $4000 in todays dollars from the late 70s until 1991-92, the year the economy woke up with a hangover from the 80s boom and those good times ended (and govt spending hit the wall

In 1992 the democrats tried to be responsible with tax rises but alll that got them was booted out of DC in 94 as Gingrich-brand truculence from the right took over.

I was in Japan during the initial internet boom but came back in 2000 for a decent tech job but the week after my interview the Nasdaq crashed and for the next 2+ years the feel-good 90s all bled away under Bush.

The Bushies were desperate to get the ‘conony rolling again to win reelection, which they managed to do by intentionally triggering the colossal housing bubble and re-fi boom of 2003-2006.

That engine started running on fumes in 2007 and massively asploded in 2008, taking the global ‘conomy with it in 2008-09

Then our Savior arrived then, beating two rather weak-ass conservatives but the electorate in their infinite wisdom handed the House back to the GOP in 2010, the Senate to them in 2014, and of course the whole enchilada in 2016.

Late last decade I knew it was still a good time to buy a house since mortgage rates were normalized and moderating price gains.

Then the pandemic hit and 2020 gave us the same kick in the nads as 2010 and 2000 and 1990 (and 1980 but that was before my time)
posted by torokunai at 11:27 PM on April 1 [10 favorites]


We've only one real choice, learn to be happy with less, like say Cuba. It'll suck less under socialism or anything less individualist of course.

America has pulled every technological trick to remain the world's largest oil producer, but that'll end soon-ish. If humanity is lucky, America would prevent anyone else deploying similar techlogical oil straws.

We cannot decouple energy usage from GWP, well the truth maybe even worse. We therefore need the economy to contract further as our oil straw shrinks.

There is some limited good news here in that while global trade creates our staggering GWP and wealth, at the same time global trade breaks union strikes, obstructs socialist reforms, and cuts employment options. We'll fair better everywhere that socialists & unions exploit collapse well, but this requires accepting the relaity of economic, population, and socail contraction, and all communist & socialist theory was written for the "easy mode" of fossil fueled economic growth.

As I've pointed out elsewhere, +4°C makes the tropics uninhabitable by humans, and reduces the earth's maximum carrying capacity below one billion humans (Steffen et al). IPCC says +3°C but ignores tipping points, and uses data that lags by 10 years, thus having the wrong imbalance, making +4°C by 2100 sound likely. We'll all be dead long before then, but if our population contracts back below 1 billion within 100 years, then our overall energy & resource consumption must fall much much faster. And our best guess predicts several other planetary boundaries doing more damage than climate.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:20 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


When I was growing up I worked for a family firm (not mine) that’d truly treat you like family. Pay was shit but oi got no ambiguous tasks no politics bbq at anr owner’s house. I wanted to help the people I worked with and I got free rein. There were politics for sure but the owner would personally pay medical expenses and excuse leave. Even retired employees got got unannounced benefits.

Now I don’t know what I do. I consult but the pressure is high to meet quarterly revenues which I don’t see bonuses from. We staff aug there’s no layoffs for clients technically reported. I am a number in a spreadsheet. I miss two timecards (never mind I’m working 90 hours but can only bill 30, my pay is docked as a director. The system is setup to always fear losing your job.

A lot of people thrive in strict environments. I do what’s best for a client and won’t say sorry have to take 30 hours of time sheet training or my pay is docked (really). Everyone’s hands are “tied” no matter how much I bring in there’s always an excuse. When we complete timecards or training the system is so broken we have to take screenshots to prove we did it. So uh why isn’t the person who wrote it not the one in trouble?

The way I see it we had the the Industrial Revolution which caused an upheaval but said yeah your job is shitty but we will take care of you for life. This got replaced with metrics and globalization. Quality went down you had to meet Q1 metrics *somehow* and pensions gave way to the stock market.

Now we’ve reached the point where I’m doing all the work, no executive bonuses and relying on offshore for quality I can’t control. I also might need someone for a question for an hour or two but they’re “booked” on something else.

It is like they turned us all into freelancers. Without the benefits. Not owning a house doesn’t bother me. If you can get a reputable landlord having a furnace out isn’t your problem. If you’re poor and own a house you still have the problem in different ways.

My biggest peeve was the lie we all bought into that we will figure out something and get rich. I wish I was in a union so I could get pension and when he changes a training platform website and it’s buried in 1000 emails and I miss it I get dinged. No whoops sorry couldn’t you have called or messaged me. A day late for missing Outlook training (who needs that?!) and I’m not given a reprieve?

My pay got docked 60% and I called HR. They said they couldn’t tell me and didn’t know call the payment processor. They gave me the same answer. I had to retrain a lawyer to figure out what happened (same name child support missed). No one wanted to take responsibility.

I sometimes wonder why work for a company at all, and I think we will see a lot of changes in that direction. I have to pay for my own software under the guise of they give me Photoshop everyone wants it. But I really do need it. Ik the end I paid for it myself. Colleagues pay for travel since expense is so hard. I was admonished for telling an employee he should ask for per diem or expensive out travel. “It was his choice to repair the relationship in person that someone else mishandled he should learn to do it over Zoom.”

In short this goes way beyond housing. We are all well compensated employees making above the medians who can’t purchase houses or make long term commitments because we are numbers on a spreadsheet.
posted by geoff. at 1:40 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]


Most young people are stuck working meaningless jobs, with no benefits, that pay a sub-living wage, and we're expected to scrape by on that while the world inexorably degrades into a mostly uninhabitable hell planet.

And folks wonder why we aren't having kids.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 3:16 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


Mod note: Several comments removed for derailing the subject. Let's not turn this into another debate on the 2024 US elections.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:07 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


44 over here, still plenty disillusioned with capitalism, still face the same problems as those younger than I. We're all in the muck together.

Won't ever own a house (I've come to see this as a HUGE advantage, I rent a lovely place for now with my husband and and have no house debt or worried about the boiler or roof). I struggle to keep the car working well. Vacations are modest and usually to visit family and I worry I won't ever travel the world. Retirement seems impossible, not counting on it. Will still need health insurance. Have comforts and some toys, two cats. It's not all bad. If we had kids, we'd be flat broke and starving, I'm sure. Happy we didn't want them and didn't have them.

The WORLD is getting worse, trying to hold onto my little piece of paradise.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:22 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


Maybe we could get a few more 50ish people to comment about how things are going for them in this thread? Would really fill out the discussion, paint a fuller picture of the situation. Haven't really heard a perspective from this viewpoint before.

Ha ha, good one!

Am 43 soon. So not exactly 50ish, but

44 over here,

As an early Gen Xer

Y'all.
posted by Not A Thing at 6:07 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Y'all.

On the other hand, the thread is titled "The Unluckiest Generation" and TFA is explicitly about people under 40 waking to this reality.

Imagine (or just go find) a thread about not-America, and the expected response to a comment like "maybe we could get a few more 50ish people Americans to comment about how things are going for them in this thread? Would really fill out the discussion"
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:11 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


This is the system working fundamentally as envisioned and intended by the GOP and the corporate executive class since Reagan

And exacerbated by Third Way, Middle of the road, GOP-Lite Democrats, a la Clinton.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:17 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I'm 43 and by all measures count myself extremely lucky--I own a house, I make about $100K a year, I have decent health insurance and work at a place that is mostly sane and reasonable.

I'm still basically a revolutionary communist these days.
posted by rhymedirective at 6:20 AM on April 2 [20 favorites]


Social-Democracy must change from a party of social revolution into a democratic party of social reforms. Bernstein has surrounded this political demand with a whole battery of well-attuned “new” arguments and reasonings. Denied was the possibility of putting socialism on a scientific basis and of demonstrating its necessity and inevitability from the point of view of the materialist conception of history. Denied was the fact of growing impoverishment, the process of proletarisation, and the intensification of capitalist contradictions; the very concept, “ultimate aim”, was declared to be unsound, and the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat was completely rejected. Denied was the antithesis in principle between liberalism and socialism. Denied was the theory of the class struggle, on the alleged grounds that it could not be applied to a strictly democratic society governed according to the will of the majority, etc.

Thus, the demand for a decisive turn from revolutionary Social-Democracy to bourgeois social-reformism was accompanied by a no less decisive turn towards bourgeois criticism of all the fundamental ideas of Marxism. In view of the fact that this criticism of Marxism has long been directed from the political platform, from university chairs, in numerous pamphlets and in a series of learned treatises, in view of the fact that the entire younger generation of the educated classes has been systematically reared for decades on this criticism, it is not surprising that the “new critical” trend in Social-Democracy should spring up, all complete, like Minerva from the head of Jove. The content of this new trend did not have to grow and take shape, it was transferred bodily from bourgeois to socialist literature.
-VIL, 1901
posted by Richard Saunders at 6:32 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I'm 45, the sole income for our household, and I am pretty sure I have developed chronic fatigue as a consequence of covid. I don't know what is going to happen, but at least I have family nearby who can help. I can't imagine how awful it must be to face this same situation alone. Something has to give.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 6:36 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Right, but that little bit of dressing up is what got people to go with the system for so long. They told people there was hope for a good life, if you go to school and work hard and do everything right, you’ll share in the bounty.

There was a long time in the US, at least from about WW2 into the 1980s, where this was true (as long as you define "people" as "white men"). My grandfather supported a family as a single-income federal worker, maybe topping out at around a GS-12 level in the last years of his career. He sent all his kids to college, built a large mid-century house in a very nice part of the city he was living in, bought new cars periodically, and was able to retire early with a sizeable pension and savings. Nowadays, someone in that same federal job would almost certainly need a second income to even live part of that lifestyle, but even two GS-12 incomes won't get you what my grandfather had on one back then. Part of that is because back then so many people were shut out of those opportunities (all women, people of color, etc.), and way fewer people had university educations so if you had a degree you were in a privileged minority. But also it was because there were high taxes that produced lots of opportunities. It's way easier to send multiple kids to college when those colleges are highly subsidized, for example.

I'm Gen X and got to personally experience the "pulling up the ladders" that happened post-1980s as all those supports were taken away. But for me it was only partial, since it has been a slow process, and someone who is Millennial or younger will have had a very different experience than I had just a few years before.

We've only one real choice, learn to be happy with less, like say Cuba. It'll suck less under socialism or anything less individualist of course.

This is silly. (Or, if it is ever going to be true, ti will be a long time in the future.) We don't have any shortage of resources. What we have is a wildly unequal distribution of those resources. Fixing that might put a crimp in the lifestyles of the CEO-class, but would resolve the scarcity problem for all the rest of us.

I was just reading a review of a newish book on inequality (but can't remember the name of the author) who wrote a data-driven historical analysis of inequality. According to the review, his basic conclusion is that once inequality reaches extreme levels, you either get mass violence (e.g., French revolution) or, less often, you get a negotiated redistribution (e.g., the US New Deal and subsequent decades of shared prosperity). Personally, I think we are closer to that inflection point than the people benefiting from the extreme inequality realize, and for all that it is fun to joke about bringing out the guillotines, I really hope that instead we find a path to negotiate redistribution of resources and opportunities through the political system.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:12 AM on April 2 [20 favorites]


the thread is titled "The Unluckiest Generation" and TFA is explicitly about people under 40 waking to this reality.

I've got a couple of kids that are effectively "baby zennial" and "elder zoomer" in age respectively. They are preposterously advantaged over a great many of their peers—socioeconomically, geographically, and in their ability to pass racially—and they've effectively been wise to this shit for quite a few years now even though they've barely scraped the surface of the working world. Their reactions differ, along the fairly typical gender lines that these reactions tend to differ, but the message is the same: they've inherited the ruin I inherited and failed to fix up.

Their prospects for the future, even with the massive privilege they're afforded are not great. I could keel over, write them the very large insurance check, and leave them the signed will and it wouldn't fix the fundamental problem at all; the game is rigged against them and I've only been able to do so much to buffer that. It's not just about the money, it's about a systemically broken society.
posted by majick at 7:13 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


On the other hand, the thread is titled "The Unluckiest Generation" and TFA is explicitly about people under 40 waking to this reality.

Except that Gen X and 50 year olds are not under 40. (To be fair to those commenters, at least one of them was drawing a contrast between the timing of their birth and millennials/younger.)
posted by hoyland at 7:16 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


My sympathy is real! I'm going, "It me!"
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:21 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I'm a straight white guy in my late 30s with a six figure income, married to a mid-30s straight white woman with comparable income, we have no debt aside from our mortgage, and we're... basically raving socialists who don't have any faith in "business," like the entire concept is laughable, the idea that we'd find value in "capitalism" is dismissed out of hand. If they've lost us, what hope do they have for anybody else?
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:30 AM on April 2 [21 favorites]


Another way to look at how much less workers are getting from companies is a metric known as labor’s share of national income. What executives don’t like to talk about is that while pay has increased a lot in the rebound from the pandemic, corporate profits have soared even more.
43/Xennial here (though like Philip Cohen, I’m skeptical of strict generational boundaries), and I’ve seen this process speed-run first-hand when America’s largest nonprofit online university was handed over to a Bezos acolyte.

Despite massive student enrollments that could have sustained full-time employment for additional faculty and staff, the Amazon-style leadership is replacing full-time positions with part-time workers or automated processes while executive salaries have soared. Layoffs also occurred after a failed unionizing effort. At the same time, the university’s curriculum is suffused with neoliberal social-emotional learning intended to pacify workers as they are exploited.

The sense of isolation mentioned in this thread really hits home for me. As does a feeling of watching a disaster unfold being unable to do anything. I still try for a critical hope that looks for something to hold onto. Adam Greenfield’s upcoming book Lifehouse and his Mastodon posts have given me some of those handholds. As has adrienne maree brown’s emergent strategy. But trying to cobble together some semblance of community in the middle of such precarity is daunting.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:31 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


i mean, i am a millennial, but i'm 41 because i'm the eldest of the elders

but since i'm not under 40 by the strict definition i'm okay letting younger millennials talk about how they might feel that they'll never be able to retire and will work until they die of a stroke, anuerysm, cardiac event, or a more frowned upon route because all life is precious (in the womb)
posted by i used to be someone else at 7:36 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


The point is, all these articles bemoan the Millenial condition - but that condition is often the same for us older folks. We're not monopolizing the convo - the convo is the same!)


If you're not taking the time to listen before you jump in with "ME TOO" then you really have no idea if "you too." Things can be hard in different ways for different groups, and not listening to people describe their unique difficulties isn't showing solidarity, it's being rude.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:36 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


I'm 43 and by all measures count myself extremely lucky--I own a house, I make about $100K a year, I have decent health insurance and work at a place that is mostly sane and reasonable.

I'm still basically a revolutionary communist these days.


I'm the exact same age and feel the same. As I mentioned in another thread recently, I'm also very, very lucky/privileged to be in one of the few remaining lines of work that pays low six figures, has a healthy retirement and is likely as AI/layoff-proof as it's possible to get. Absent a literal Mad Max situation I have nothing to worry about.

But if anything, I feel like I've become more leftist over the past decade. No doubt part of it is that I've had the fortune to spend a good chunk of my adulthood living in countries with far more robust safety nets than the US and asking why don't we have the same. But part of it is also that I feel like I used to at least try to believe the "anyone can succeed/land of opportunity" hype, but age has made me realize more that it's just a load of BS. Luck and privilege matter far more than initiative and hard work. And the most recent round of tech booms over the past few years has definitely turbocharged that impression.
posted by photo guy at 7:41 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]


(I personally think the Millennials have been handed a raw deal (and, hey! one of the professional accomplishments I'm most proud of has been in connection with one of the small ameliorations they've been offered!), but it is, indeed, kind of funny to hear a Millennial complain they've heard too much from Gen X. Whatever's been done to them economically, the Millennials have not wanted for cultural attention or platforms; meanwhile, I suspect the complainer didn't realize that people in their 50s are not Boomers anymore.)
posted by praemunire at 7:45 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


When trying to affect social change, it's usually helpful for coalitions to be larger, not smaller.
posted by AndrewInDC at 7:47 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


The conflict between generations distracts us from the class war, yet again.
posted by MrVisible at 7:50 AM on April 2 [38 favorites]


the thread is titled "The Unluckiest Generation" and TFA is explicitly about people under 40 waking to this reality.

The problem is affecting all of us. The unluckiest generation is the one who has lived their entire life under it, but those of us who lived for a while in a better life have also gotten to watch the sliding horror. However, that also gives us a better perspective on how we got there, *because* we watched it happen.

I think a large portion of this is actually early AI computerization/internet that allowed people to crunch numbers and really get into Taylorism of, well, everything, to crunch numbers to determine the absolute maximization of profit.

For example. Last night I needed to merge some PDFs. This is something that Adobe Acrobat allows fairly easily. It used to come loaded on many Windows computers when you bought it, or you could buy it in the store - I remember for a relatively reasonable price, maybe 50$ maximum. Except my computer wouldn't do it, because about seven to ten years ago Adobe started moving their very normal features to a subscription model. Now if you want your Adobe Acrobat to work, you have to pay them every month, ongoing, forever. Instead of a 50$ one-time purchase - even inflation adjusted to 90$ - let's assume my laptop works for ten years, I now have to pay - assuming the subscription price doesn't go up, which is a hell of an assumption, $2,640. And that is just one thing. One little, tiny, thing.

People used to have free games that let you pay for them if they liked them: it was called shareware. But computers didn't calculate ways to make them as addictive as possible to trick you into opening your wallet. It was a fair test: if you liked it, you would pay for it so you could get more of it, and if it wasn't worth it to you, you wouldn't.

And this stuff is also how jobs would work. If you looked like you were working hard and people liked you, you would keep your job. You weren't measured against performance metrics calculated by a computer to ensure that just enough people got fired to keep the other people scared, but not too many people got fired so that they couldn't replace them.
posted by corb at 7:51 AM on April 2 [27 favorites]


Oy, speaking as someone under 40 it's pretty wild to have it driven home to me how much younger I am than most mefites. But I feel almost a civic obligation to post now!

The difference, I think, is that people my age and younger really can't remember a time when shit worked, or was good. There's never been a point where we could really be like, "wow, maybe things are looking up!" Basically the first news cycle I really remember understanding as a fairly mature, well informed individual was GWB stealing the election in 2000. I wasn't old enough to vote that year but I was old enough to read the writing on the fucking wall.

I'll admit that for a member of the "unluckiest generation" I've been very lucky. But my work life has still gotten worse and worse and worse with each passing year, and unlike someone in their fifties, I may well get another thirty years or more of working life to see how much worse it can get and how many more footballs late capitalism can yank away. I hate my job. I think about quitting every single day. But the fear is real that if I leave this job

Also, like, if you're feeling bad but you're old enough that accidental pregnancy is not a salient concern for you, I invite you to imagine how much worse you might feel if you had years of fertility left.
posted by potrzebie at 7:54 AM on April 2 [39 favorites]


The OP and this thread seems totally USian. I'd be interested in knowing more about whether in other western democracies, especially in Europe, the younger generations have the same level of hopelessness.

Since most of those countries have the health care, better safety nets, and higher wealth taxation that many here are advocating for, it would be instructive to see whether these do indeed improve the outlook and prospects for more people.

(spoiler, I'm Canadian and it seems that Canada does better in some of these areas.... but not as well as most western European countries)
posted by Artful Codger at 8:00 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Mod note: Comment removed for using derogatory language. Please find another word to use besides 'tard',
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 8:03 AM on April 2 [12 favorites]


I was just reading a review of a newish book on inequality (but can't remember the name of the author) who wrote a data-driven historical analysis of inequality. According to the review, his basic conclusion is that once inequality reaches extreme levels, you either get mass violence (e.g., French revolution) or, less often, you get a negotiated redistribution (e.g., the US New Deal and subsequent decades of shared prosperity).

I think I recall reading those things both in Thomas Piketty's writings (e.g., Capital in the 21st Century) and Walter Scheidel's The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century - maybe because I read those books in succession several years ago. It also looks like Piketty has a new book out - A Brief History of Equality - which seems to be attracting some press e.g., this interview.
posted by ElKevbo at 8:10 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


For example. Last night I needed to merge some PDFs. This is something that Adobe Acrobat allows fairly easily.

I know we make this kinda hard to find, and I actually have to Google our own website to find the thing sometimes, but we do have a simple SaaS tool if you're willing to do it online. My personal opinion is that these kinds of simple non-editing operations ought to be in Reader and more readily discoverable on the site—there are plenty of other free tools out there that do this sort of thing, and that moves people away from the Acrobat ecosystem just as much as the monetization model.
posted by majick at 8:13 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Or even those of us having to provide for Gen Z/millenials are having this same sort of hopelessness.

I was really lucky enough to get two major tax refunds recently. It came to a couple thousand dollars, which seemed to me like a huge sum of money. It's basically what I normally live on for a month. So naturally I wanted to treat the adult kids a little bit, in what seemed to me to be reasonably frugal fashion. I didn't do anything fancy - I took them to dinner a few times at low grade restaurants, bought pizza once and boba and coffee a couple times. I took them to get some thrifted and discounted clothes. I paid for gas for their cars twice and paid one or two bills. And that money is just...gone. Things that I remember my parents doing for me casually and regularly as a part of normal life just absolutely wiped out what was for me a windfall.

So the way that this economy is affecting the older people is absolutely also impacting the younger people as well, because we aren't able to help in the way that we want to. They are missing this entire support structure as a result because we are unable to provide in the way that used to be normal.
posted by corb at 8:14 AM on April 2 [22 favorites]


It’s why they’re turning to fascism, because a lot of the youth are waking up

You might (or may not!) be surprised how many of "the youth" are waking up, and choosing fascism. Or, conversely, like the nice kid I met last weekend, are well-informed and articulate, and consider themselves to be an "activist"....

....but upon inquiry, I realized their activism consisted of posting hot takes on social media in their spare time. I didn't say anything, but in my head a voice went "You're not an activist, you're just another fucking grifter chasing engagement metrics for monetization and you won't change a goddamn thing".
posted by aramaic at 8:37 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


I was just reading a review of a newish book on inequality (but can't remember the name of the author) who wrote a data-driven historical analysis of inequality.

I found the article. In case it is blocked by a paywall, here are the key paragraphs (for brevity, I omitted the middle paragraphs about historical examples):

That’s the pattern that Turchin explores in “End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration.” Trained as a theoretical biologist, he now mines a vast historical data set, called CrisisDB, for insights into how societies encounter chaos. The crux of his findings: a nation that funnels too much money and opportunity upward gets so top-heavy that it can tip over. In the dispassionate tone of a scientist assessing an ant colony, Turchin writes, “In one-sixth of the cases, elite groups were targeted for extermination. The probability of ruler assassination was 40 percent.” ...

Turchin ends his book with a sobering vision. Using data to model scenarios for the future, he concludes, “At some point during the 2020s, the model predicts, instability becomes so high that it starts cutting down the elite numbers.” He likens the present time to the run-up to the Civil War. America could still relearn the lessons of the Great Compression—“one of the exceptional, hopeful cases”—and act to prevent a top-heavy society from toppling. When that has happened in history, “elites eventually became alarmed by incessant violence and disorder,” he writes. “And we are not there—yet.”

posted by Dip Flash at 8:50 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


I think I recall reading those things both in Thomas Piketty's writings

hmm, perhaps MeFites whose aliases begin with elkev are predisposed to mentioning Piketty in these sorts of conversations

I hadn't kept up with him, and glad to see a new work coming out. thanks ElKevbo!
posted by elkevelvet at 9:55 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


The difference, I think, is that people my age and younger really can't remember a time when shit worked, or was good. There's never been a point where we could really be like, "wow, maybe things are looking up!"

Yeah as someone in the eldest millennial cohort I recognize that in general, shit is bad for everyone and it's entirely possible to be a poor, screwed Gen Xer or even Boomer (hi, supporting my Boomer mom here).

But I can also plainly see that I am doing worse along every single metric than every single Gen Xer that I know, despite my being as well or better educated, and having just as solid an employment history. Folks who had a decade or more of full, earning adulthood before the housing crash are in a different world than I am. They're more likely to have been married/dual income, to have afforded a cheap-as-shit house with good interest rates, to have had smaller student loan burdens. They're still struggling compared to their parents, which I recognize and which sucks! They have substantial and real stressors economically. They are more afraid of layoffs than I am because they are theoretically on the retirement downramp but they can't really afford to retire, and it's hard to get a job in your 50s. They feel desperately that they must hang the fuck on at all costs for a few more years, and they fear they won't be able to, and I GET IT.

But they have houses they can sell for a frankly ridiculous profit if that happens. (Do you know how much a house in Logan Square, Chicago, that sold for 92K in 2005 is worth now? A retirement fund, that's what it's worth. But in 2005 I was working an entry level internship, not buying property.) They have 401ks because our industry hadn't been hollowed out in favor of permalancers when they started. It sucks to downsize! It sucks to tap your retirement early! But they have a handful of substantial options that I simply will not ever have. When, not if, my income evaporates, I am homeless. Love to see my Xer colleagues on Slack talking about how relieved they are that they aren't renters, because renters are forever fucked! [cry-laughs in renter]

No it's not a scientifically representative example! Hashtag not all xers or whatever. It's just what I see every day, and the difference is pretty stark.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:59 AM on April 2 [22 favorites]


I do think it is darkly amusing that all it took for a global Marxist awakening to really take hold was the failure of the main communist empire followed by about 40 years of largely unfettered American/Western capitalism. Not quite exactly what Marx predicted but pretty close!
posted by srboisvert at 10:05 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Also darkly amusing is that they quote Larry Fink whose primary concern appears to be that his consumer facing investment fund is threatened if nobody has any money to invest anymore because all consumer wealth has all already been strip mined by someone else.
posted by srboisvert at 10:11 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


The difference, I think, is that people my age and younger really can't remember a time when shit worked, or was good. There's never been a point where we could really be like, "wow, maybe things are looking up!"

There are clear material differences, like those itemized in Blast Hardcheese's comment above (though like the comment acknowledges, not everyone got those advantages and there are no shortage of Gen-X and Boomers in very difficult straits). But there are also (at least anecdotally in the people I know well) some real psychological scars that many of the younger cohort have from being young at some very difficult points from an economic/work perspective.

Like, I know a number of millenial couples where their combined income is way above mine and are on track to have that rise much further, and yet they feel much more precarious than I do (and I feel plenty precarious already). Unsurprisingly, many aren't having children even if, from the outside, they appear to have all the resources needed, because of that feeling of precarity.

Still speaking anecdotally, this seems different from the not-wealthy Boomers I know, who seem to have different feelings of having fallen behind while watching their peers get wealthy and comfortable, even if in the end they and younger people might be in the same economic situation.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:24 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


On the bright side, it’s starting to feel like overall civilizational collapse will come soon enough that having no retirement savings won’t really be the problem by then.
posted by notoriety public at 10:58 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


I am 57, and my retirement plan is early death. I do have a professional degree, but spent a good chunk of my career as a climate activist /community organizer, and whelp we all know how that turns out. I took a gamble that the world/economy would be going in a different direction by now, and my knowledge and experience would have a lot of value. HooooooooBoy was I wrong.

That being said, I know two people who work at high levels in Climate Change, get paid well, and probably fly long flights 15-25 times a year. I suppose they feel ok about it, but I find it confusing.

It is all messed up, AI will have a major impact, and the corporations will continue to hoover up everything they can because “Shareholder Primacy” is the name of the game.
posted by tarantula at 10:59 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


I've been wondering a lot lately what role the 401k plays in all of this, actually. How much of the country's savings are now locked away in stocks that from which the savers cannot divest? How much housing development used to be funded that way, instead of by corporations that throw in the towel whenever the interest rate makes it less-immediately-profitable to build?

To me, that's the essence of capitalism, in contrast to other market-oriented economies one could imagine: the ONLY way to be safe in old age, the ONLY way to stay ahead of inflation, the ONLY way to avoid taxes?

Buy what the shareholders are selling.
posted by McBearclaw at 11:19 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


(spoiler, I'm Canadian and it seems that Canada does better in some of these areas.... but not as well as most western European countries)

I'm 49 and Canadian and saying "we're doing better than the States" is damning us with the faintest of praise.

Most of the provinces are steadily hollowing out our public healthcare systems in favour of private delivery models that cost more but, crucially, make rich fuckers money. Education is much the same in most provinces as well.

Our housing crisis is far worse than the USA and getting worse faster, and only exploded over the last decade mostly because we extensively suburbanized after the USA did, which meant we had room to build expensive sprawl and now that's over because we've hit the practical limits of sprawl, and our political leaders are absolutely unwilling to do anything meaningful about the housing crisis because they all know any meaningful action would result in housing price drops, which would mean depreciation for the majority of Canadians' largest asset, which asset they've all been relying on to fund their retirements, except ha ha nobody's gonna be able to afford to buy their houses! EXCEPT corporate landlording companies owned by rich fuckers!

We're deeply screwed. We need immigration to increase just to keep our tax base stable in order to pay for services (immigrant students are basically keeping our entire university system financially solvent), but whoops doing that makes the housing crisis worse! We're so fucked!
posted by mightygodking at 11:45 AM on April 2 [12 favorites]


Also, I realize that for all I've laid out the differences between the Xers I know and myself, I also know quite a number of extremely well-off and also legitimately, generationally wealthy millennials (like, for example, one of the former high-ups at the Washington Post) who should be a shoe-in for, at best, a centrist pro-capitalist politics. But like a couple of posters here have noted, they're actually all ready for the big redistribution.

Now arguably, if they were REALLY ready, they'd be doing more stuff to make it happen. But we can't all be revolutionary leaders, not even if we have means and leisure. I think they're sincere that whenever someone is ready to lead the movement, they're ready to follow.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:54 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


well I'm an old Gen X, so I won't talk about my own experience. but I would like to highlight potrzebie's comment because we were hitting menopause when Roe v. Wade was struck down!!!! this is really big. for all that every generation experiences hardship etc., there are things going on now that are pretty damn horrifying, and they are going to fall harder on the younger generations.

loss of access to abortion and birth control. cracking down on gender-affirming care for trans youth. fascism. fascism! jmfc...

I might be dead before the climate crisis gets really juicy but my nieces are gonna see some shit.
posted by supermedusa at 11:58 AM on April 2 [13 favorites]


if they were REALLY ready, they'd be doing more stuff to make it happen

Everybody's waiting for critical mass.

I would give everything I have if I thought it would usher in a world where everyone's basic needs are met, free from precarity. That's all I want for myself and my children. I would take a modest pension, universal healthcare, and a Soviet one-bedroom apartment over millions in the stock market casino of late-stage capitalism. But without critical mass, I could throw my life savings into this effort, quit my job and do full time activism, and watch it all disappear in the wind. At least, that's how it feels. It's a bootstrapping problem.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:08 PM on April 2 [12 favorites]


I am currently in the middle of the nightmarish process of selling my house and buying a new one - with my Millennial kids, because it is not only the only way they will ever own property, it's the only way they will even have anywhere to live. They can't afford rent anymore, despite both having extremely solid resumes. But those resumes aren't in tech and only one of them has a degree and they're both single: they can't afford rent.

I'm an early Xer and I actually did get some generational wealth. I promptly spent it on a house, then sold that house and bought another one and now, I'm repeating that but with one more name on the mortgage and two more names on the deed. I feel horribly guilty about how much my house has increased in value: this is just flat wrong. But I'm going to do a capitalism here and hope I can make it work for my family. Yes, Xers were screwed too. I have a much older Boomer brother who managed to do better than me or my younger firmly X brother simply because he actually managed to get a union job with a pension. He got to retire with a little money. I am 60 now and I have slowly grasped that I will never be able to retire - but even though I would lose everything and probably end up homeless if my job goes south again, I am still better off than my Millennial kids. I feel like it is my moral imperative as a parent to do everything I can to make that better: we're buying a multi family house and accepting that we will be a multi generational household forever.

This isn't what I planned. I didn't want to live with my kids until we all got old and gray together. They for sure didn't want to live with Mom for their entire lives. But it seems like this is the only way to make it work in this hellscape. I have been so angry for so long on my kids' behalf. My daughter works harder than anyone I have ever known and it has gotten her exactly nowhere. My son made some bad life mistakes in his late teens and early twenties that he will never, ever be able to recover from and that is a whole other way that Millennials have been terribly and uniquely screwed. Generational divide aside, so many of us are hurting, so many of us are angry, so many of us are anti capitalist and yet nothing seems to ever get better, only worse and worse and worse.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:10 PM on April 2 [27 favorites]


My son made some bad life mistakes in his late teens and early twenties that he will never, ever be able to recover from and that is a whole other way that Millennials have been terribly and uniquely screwed.

I have a friend who has two sons in that same position. The consequences of messing up when you are young are a lot higher than when I was young. I messed up, pretty badly, at that age (as did my friend with the two sons), but there was a straightforward path to basically being considered a temporarily messed-up kid who needs a second (or third) chance, versus now when there are harsh criminal sentences for juvenile offenders, harsh suspension and expulsion requirements at schools for all sorts of things that weren't enforced in the past, and lots of ways to have things end up "on your permanent record" in ways that weren't possible in the past and can hinder all sorts of opportunities.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:29 PM on April 2 [11 favorites]


Everybody's waiting for critical mass.

We had it during the pandemic but they took it from us. Capital pulled out all the stops to make sure none of us could ever get accustomed to expecting the government to provide solutions. The pandemic provided the perfect crisis to introduce the kinds of reforms we've been begging for, and for a brief moment we had things like expanded unemployment, eviction protections, student loan deferrals, and even direct payments! But then they took those from us because Republicans fought them tooth and nail and Democrats did their usual running away from popular policies so as not to make it look like they were exploiting a crisis for their own political benefit.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:31 PM on April 2 [21 favorites]


I'm 40, and graduated college late, 2008 to be specific and with a BA in English. Not the best degree or time to be entering the workforce, and I've been struggling to keep my head afloat since. I've fallen ass-backwards into a line of work that at least pays the bills if not much else at the moment, and any sense of having a life with the same level of wealth and security as my parents has long since gone out the window. Heck, they were civil servants and at their retirement about twenty years ago, they were making a little more than I'm making now. My spouse has been a civil servant for over a decade, and in a union, and hasn't seen a single pay raise.

I'm not getting my hopes up that I'll get to have a retirement, or build up more than the barest minimum of savings, or much of anything, unless shit changes, and shit changes fast.
posted by SansPoint at 12:56 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Mod note: Several comments deleted. Please do not pick a fight with specific embers. As the guidelines say: "Listen if someone says they're upset and be willing to apologize and step back." and "Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and let the conversation move on."
posted by loup (staff) at 1:02 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I just turned 44 and I'm about to buy my first house. There is zero chance that my wife and I could afford this without significant help from my parents for the down payment.
posted by schyler523 at 1:06 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I bought my first home at age 40 with my parents' help for the downpayment. Couldn't have bought a home without their help.
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 1:09 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


The sense of precarity that has seeped into everything is not sustainable for an entire adult life. It's not surprising to see the younger generations really struggling under that burden. Not that Gen X enjoys it, and obviously a significant number of people have always had to carry it in every generation, but the constant low-grade unease has engulfed a much larger part of the population than in the previous couple of generations, I think.
posted by praemunire at 1:29 PM on April 2 [13 favorites]


Well. As a bonafide under-40 millennial I just have to say thank god I'm not Gen Z. The amount that tuition has increased in the thirteen years since I graduated college is obscene. And they're paying like three times as much as I did a decade ago for a crappy shared apartment. The trend is not good.
posted by ambulanceambiance at 1:30 PM on April 2 [13 favorites]


Well. As a bonafide under-40 millennial I just have to say thank god I'm not Gen Z. The amount that tuition has increased in the thirteen years since I graduated college is obscene. And they're paying like three times as much as I did a decade ago for a crappy shared apartment. The trend is not good.

ALSO EXTREMELY AGREE. The difference between my student loan situation and that of my youngest sibling (in the eldest Gen-Z cohort) is absolutely fucking batshit. I had my loans paid off by my 30th birthday; he'll have his paid off by his 70th. All of the scholarships, grants, and other non-interest-bearing college funding that scraped my broke ass through a standard undergrad degree had completely vanished by the time he was attending school. Fuck, man, I'd be a fascist too.

(He isn't a fascist, though--like everyone here, he's ready for luxury automated gay space communism. Or even the regular type.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:05 PM on April 2 [9 favorites]


For extra context - I'm 57. When I started university tuition was 1400 cdn. PER YEAR! I was pissed because the Ontario government had just dropped OSAP grants and went straight loans. So yeah the years before me even got big chunks of their tuition payments covered by straight up grants if they were median middle class or lower. But I could pay my own tuition and living expenses with zero parental support with a summer job and still buy some big ticket luxury expense each year (leather jacket, 5 component stereo, etc...). Unfortunately, I went to school forever and it took until my mid 40s to pay off the loans from my later years.

Boomers were the original ladder pullers but each generation since has had people who have also pulled the ladder up a little bit higher to the extent that people now cannot even conceive of or remember how good the ladder originally was.

I'll inherit a lot of money from my parents soon. Neither parent went to university and neither worked particularly hard or were particularly successful. They were just borderline lower middle class Canadians at a time when that meant if you clipped coupons and your kids wore used clothing you could have a house with a 2 car garage.
posted by srboisvert at 2:11 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Also look there's not a ton I can do in my life but one thing I can do and am trying, very hard, to do is to not pull the ladder up behind me, even if the ladder is shitty, too short, and on fire, and I'm actually still climbing it also. I've done a lot over the years to help the Gen Z kids in my life/at my job stay above water and navigate the shitshow.

And it's not to say that I never got a hand or a break from older folks in my life--not hardly. But the attitude was often "oh look at this pathetic kid, just can't hack Modern Life the way I can, guess I'll throw 'em a bone, haha" which was both undeserved and resulted in me turning down a few things because nobody likes condescending charity.

The main concern of course is that eventually the ladder just disintegrates anyway, with all of us on it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:13 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


I'm 65, that's argueably retirement age. Though the prospect of retiring is laughable for me. I could retire, if I had a nice refreigerator box picked out to live in. I just found out (silly of me not knowing this sooner) that my retirement fund lowers by the amount of whatever Social Security I might get which means my plan to retire in 7 years so that I might possibly afford to live is a beautiful dream. I don't own a home, my car is a way to keep mechanics in business. I can no longer afford to put a couple of thousand in it a year, not including gas & routine maintenance. I would love to be the boomer you may want to blame for our troubles, but I've never been tat guy. It's funny I have that one lyric from "My Generation" stuck in my head: Hope I die before I get old. Prophetic. It would be ironic if those guys were all Tories now that they're wealthy. I've got no point to make here. I just get why the young might be mad. I've passed well beyond mad. I'm hoping for a terminal illness, I might do something dramatic if that were to happen. Not that I believe change comes at the end of a gun or anything. I'm just sorry I'm going to miss socialist USA. Have fun kids.
posted by evilDoug at 2:38 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


( I just found out (silly of me not knowing this sooner) that my retirement fund lowers by the amount of whatever Social Security I might get

Just in case this is helpful, note: the Windfall Elimination Provision only applies if you haven't been paying into Social Security but instead into a pension plan, and the max it can reduce your SocSec payment by is one-half the value of the noncovered pension. So if you've been paying FICA taxes all this time [ambiguous but implied by your phrasing], the WEP doesn't apply to you at all, even if you're receiving a pension. Even if you haven't, it's unlikely, though not impossible, that the reduction is 1:1.)
posted by praemunire at 2:56 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


I'm 38 with a kid. There's no way in hell I can simultaneously save 188,000 usd for her theoretical college ( that number comes from a quick google) because i cant afford that shit at all yall and you know fund a retirement too! Because I should just be able to do that! Somehow.

I can't even do one of those let alone both.

And child care. My kids in public school now but her pre k was just 16000 a year ( and we paid a discounted rate of 10,000 usd! ) and that was a cheap one compared to some of the other offerings out there.

Hell even having my child cost more than a year salary at my first job out of my masters degree bc Healthcare and IVF. Just that piece alone.

Overall, I'm doing okay. Clearly because I was able to make choices like have a kid via IVF and pay for her childcare expenses. My Finacial situation isn't necessarily parcarious in my day to day. My student loans have been forgiven via PLSF. My spouses were forgiven under disability rules bc she is on SSDI. My child is only one I know personally who has both parents who have no student loan debt. I have bought a house. I have medical insurance, though my co pay for the emergency department is 275 USD. I have severe asthma and have had two hospitalizations this year and haven't met my out of pocket max. I spend probably 10k on healthcare expenses outside my health insurance premiums per year. Overall though my utilities are paid, my mortgage is paid monthly, I can afford food and put into savings and pay off some debt every month.

That savings is for radical things like dental care ( my child needed 10,000 usd of dental work at three years old! She has a genetic condition that causes very weak enamel and needed every tooth in her mouth worked on under general anesthesia which of course isn't covered by insurance because luxury mouth bones)

Other radical things i need to pay for include , HVAC installation, a trip to see my family once a year, a dining room table at some point.

No amount of number crunching and saving is going to give me an actual retirement fund or college fund for my kid. I mean according to Google I'm supposed to have saved 3x my annual salary by the time I'm 40 for retirement? When? How? With what money?

The only thing I got going for me is that as long as I can hear, see and talk clearly I can do therapy work. I can do it on oxygen. I can do it when I can't walk across the room. That's it. Thats my plan.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:12 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


I'm 36. I won't inherit anything from my parents - money, home, or otherwise. If anything, I'll be paying towards my mom's housing and health care since she has no savings or retirement fund. I make what I used to think was 'good money' but now that reasonable housing (rent) costs over 45% of my take-home pay, it no longer feels comfortable. I don't see any way I can buy a house in the area I would like to live in. I luckily was able to prioritize paying off my student loans before housing and inflation went bananas, but I am hanging tight to everything I own and treating it well with the assumption I can't afford to buy new and expensive things, like a car, maybe ever.

I feel so sad that I did everything I was told was the right path. I was the first in my family line to go to college, I worked all through high school and college and saved and saved, I got a job right out of school and worked my ass off and got a white-collar job at a decent company. I put money into my 401k and paid down debts with the expectation that I might be able to buy a home in my 30s. Some of my peers coupled up and bought younger, or had generous help from parents (down payment or were able to buy their parents' home for way less than market, or both) and I'm happy for them, but also sad and envious.

I recently had a trip to the hospital and I owe over $6,000. I don't 'qualify' for a payment plan I can afford, because on paper I make too much money, but in reality, I don't have the monthly room in my budget for it because EVERYTHING IS EXPENSIVE.

I'm shopping for a new rental right now and there are places in my non-major-city going for 25% over what they rented for last year, plus a requirement to make 3.5x the rent in monthly income. Not to mention first month's rent, last month's rent, and 1.5 months' security (averaging $8-10k to move in), in a city with no rent control.

If I did everything right, how did it go so, so wrong? I don't even have time to mourn or whine because I'm constantly thinking how can I make some extra money? how can I save? when will I feel secure again?
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:20 PM on April 2 [19 favorites]


It isn't great for your credit, but there is a real limit on what they can do to collect unpaid medical bills. I just didn't pay mine. Every so often a collection agency calls and I ignore them.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 7:34 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Well, the CFPB is working on regulations to take medical debt/collections off credit reports, and those regulations would actually be proposed under one party, and the other party would probably eliminate the CFPB and throw its leadership in jail or something, so please consider that when you hear people tell you there's no difference between the parties this November.
posted by praemunire at 8:54 PM on April 2 [10 favorites]


Thanks praemunire, that's great news! For somebody else. As a state employee I I pay into the pension fund as opposed to paying FICA. I had a long work life ( I got hired by the State at 42) before this where I paid into Social Security. Frankly I'm poor enough that any reduction is the difference between surviving and not. There is no thriving in this scenario. I'm not some admin trying to decide whether I can afford the second vacation home or if I'm gonna have to economize and go with the Beemer instead of the Benz. As a still working adult, my latest decision is can I afford to get the car fixed or do without. I'm afraid do without was the winner. Paying another $2000 for repairs that don't address the most immediate concern was too rich for my blood. On the plus side, I don't have to worry bout buying tires anymore. Tune in tomorrow for another episode of "Old, Stupid, and Destitute"
posted by evilDoug at 8:59 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Maybe I should unfollow this thread because it's making me feel my generation and after should be called the doomers, given that the majority of us are fucked
posted by i used to be someone else at 11:01 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


It isn't great for your credit, but there is a real limit on what they can do to collect unpaid medical bills.

True, but you often need to keep a 700+ credit score in order to be approved for rental applications, so I'll need to continue to be vigilant about that unless I suddenly end up with permanent housing.

It's a hundred rocks and a hundred hard places.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:35 PM on April 2 [10 favorites]


The OP and this thread seems totally USian. I'd be interested in knowing more about whether in other western democracies, especially in Europe, the younger generations have the same level of hopelessness.
I'm in Australia, but I'm also 62 so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask. But, between my wife and I, we have six kids and a couple of grandkids, so collectively span pretty much every generation since that stupid naming generations thing started, I think.

Australia definitely does a couple of things better - actual functioning public health (by no means perfect but, if you actually need medical attention, it's free) and actual policies to support some level of financial independence in retirement (mandatory minimum 9% of salary/wages paid into highly regulated funds by the employer, kind of reasonable higher education funding, income-dependant so you don't pay anything unless you are earning above ~50k and repayment is pegged at a % of income - 1% at 50k, 10% at 150k ). But most of our kids (age range is 21-38) have no hope of ever owning a home or being financially comfortable and they can't conceive of ever retiring. The eldest has worked hard and been lucky enough to have invested a bit that will help, but the rest not so much.

I don't think that anyone the age of our kids is looking down the barrel of financial destitution in their older years unless something drastically changes, but they certainly don't see home ownership, something that has been accepted here as a 'right' for several generations, in their future. So, based on my conversations with them and their friends, I don't think they generally feel hopeless, but there's a very clear air of uncertainty about their future, most of which is financial but also about the future of the planet and our place as the dominant species here. Yes, they all blame their parents for all of that.

I do find that, the older I get, the more I grow to hate capitalism and everything it's produced. Although what I see in the world is not really what I'd call capitalism, more like some kind of weird feudalism, where we are all beholden to the 1% of the population that concurrently wants us all dead and depends on us to do the jobs that keep the torrents of money pouring into their vaults.
posted by dg at 11:47 PM on April 2 [11 favorites]


Thanks dg for your perspective from Australia.

Here's one look at Gen Z in China. [BBC]
posted by Artful Codger at 7:47 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Well, evilDoug, you seem to have settled on your approach, but I'd still tell you to set a google alert for the Social Security Fairness Act.
posted by praemunire at 8:29 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I will, thank you praemunire. Also, my apologies for the 'tude. I am a little cranky about the car ( You would think I have more important things to be cranky about.) None of it should have been taken out on you, or here.
posted by evilDoug at 9:04 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]


>I'm 49 and Canadian and saying "we're doing better than the States" is damning us with the faintest of praise.
posted by mightygodking


Similar story here in Australia. Much prefer to be here than in the USA. But things have also been sliding backwards here for decades, and we are now in crunch time on a whole range of issues, like wages, housing, healthcare, education, reliance on immigration to keep the economy afloat (because for some magical fucking reason we are apparently no longer capable of training sufficient of our own workers across all trades and professions), etc.

>I would give everything I have if I thought it would usher in a world where everyone's basic needs are met, free from precarity. That's all I want for myself and my children.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl


For capitalism to survive in any form it needs to guarantee every citizen an adequate minimum standard of material support (including stuff like healthcare and education), and political and civil rights.

It is that or the pitchforks and guillotines started getting dusted off by the masses. Again.

>On the bright side, it’s starting to feel like overall civilizational collapse will come soon enough that having no retirement savings won’t really be the problem by then.
posted by notoriety public


Or even having them.
posted by Pouteria at 10:02 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


True, but you often need to keep a 700+ credit score in order to be approved for rental applications, so I'll need to continue to be vigilant about that unless I suddenly end up with permanent housing.

This is something that didn't used to be the case, at least in my experience. All my early rentals required only first/last/deposit plus providing contact info for previous landlords. I think the first time I encountered the need for a credit check for renting was when I was in my 30s. Now, credit checks are standard for rentals, and it's just one more barrier for a lot of people. There are so many ways to end up with bad credit due not to personal irresponsibility, but just plain unfortunate life events.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:35 AM on April 4 [6 favorites]


« Older The Moon is (not) made of Cheese.   |   Ed Piskor, 1982-2024 Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.